Just as to ‘Save the Cheerleader’ was to ‘Save the World’, so we too must save the Amazon Rainforest, or risk letting our planet slide further in to a global warming epidemic. And I say ‘risk’ because the Amazon is simply too large and complex to rely fully on what research we have. But the question as always remains; do we do nothing, and risk everything? Or do we do something, and risk nothing?
A new report released by the World Wide Fund (WWF) For Nature based on several recent new studies, points towards the danger of letting the Amazon Rainforest die.
“The importance of the Amazon forest for the globe’s climate cannot be underplayed,” said Daniel Nepstad, author of the report. “It’s not only essential for cooling the world’s temperature, but also such a large source of fresh water that it may be enough to influence some of the great ocean currents, and on top of that, it’s a massive store of carbon.”
The Amazon Rainforest measures 1.6 million square miles (4 million square kilometers), and it crosses over 9 nations, including covering nearly 60% of Brazil. Though largely unexplored we do know that it contains one fifth of the world’s freshwater supply and about 30 percent of the world’s plant and animal species.
But, possibly more valuably, is the fact a forest the size of the Amazon is a terrific carbon sink.
So the continued logging, livestock expansion and the worsening drought conditions are severely risking the forests survival. If these continue to expand as currently projected, then it could result in the clearing of 55% of the forest. Add another four percent to that total if the ten percent rainfall decline that is predicted in the forest occurs.
The fear is that such a devastating destruction to such a large carbon sink will only speed our decline. Scientists believe that if global temperatures rise more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above preindustrial levels we will reach an environmental tipping point. Such a tipping point will mean catastrophic floods and droughts, rising sea levels and heat waves.
“It will be very difficult to keep the temperatures at 3.6 degrees (Fahrenheit) if we don’t conserve the Amazon,” said Nepstad, who is also a senior scientist at the Woods Hole Research Center in Massachusetts.
According to the WWF report, deforestation in the Amazon could result in 55.5 billion to 96.9 billion tons of carbon dioxide being unexpectedly released in to the environment by 2030. This would be an increase equivalent to two years worth of worldwide carbon emissions (according to some estimations).
Earl Saxon, a climate change expert with the World Conservation Union, says of the report that it represents “all the best science” that we have up to date on the issue. But not everyone is as definite on the findings, with Milton Nogueira, a Brazilian government consultant on climate change believing the Amazon to simply be too big and complex.
“It is such a big, complex system that no one can predict what will happen,” he said. “It is like you are looking at a blond and blue-eyed boy and saying he will be an Olympic champion.”
The WWF report outlined ways to save the Amazon, including a shift towards sustainable logging practices; implementing land-use policies (that are already on the books in Brazil); and providing money to developing countries such as Brazil to reduce deforestation.
“We can still stop the destruction of the Amazon, but we need the support of the rich countries,” said Karen Suassuna, a climate change analyst with WWF-Brazil. “Our success in protecting the Amazon depends on how fast rich countries reduce their climate-damaging emissions to slow down global warming.”
So I ask again; do we do nothing, and risk everything? Or do we do something, and risk nothing?
National Geographic – Amazon Could Lose More Than Half Its Forest, Group Says